Ambon, Ulan, Bagyo, Baha

"More tropical cyclone (TCs) are entering the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) than anywhere else in the world. With the average of 20 TCs in this region per year, with about 8 or 9 of them crossing the Philippines. The peak of the typhoon season is July through October, when nearly 70% of al typhoon develop."


Interestingly, tropical storm, hurricane, and cyclone, are all translated into “bagyo” in Tagalog.  A literary equivalent – unos – is now rarely employed in conversations anticipating bad weather. Instead an adjective ‘malakas’ [accompanied by strong winds and lightning and thunder] is used to refer to a ‘tropical storm’ [napakalakas ng bagyo]. Meanwhile, buhawi, is a near exact equivalent for hurricane and visually, this word conjures images of violent waves and howling winds, flying roofs and debris, falling trees, floods and landslides. As for cyclone, ipo-ipo, or twister, is added to the mix to be apt.  

When it is about to rain, the Tagalog will say either “kulimlim, uulan yata” [Sky is overcast, maybe it is going to rain] or “ang kapal ng dag-im” [the clouds are heavy with rain]. Madilim ang langit [the sky is dark] is also used as a formal equivalent.       

There are also words that distinguish rainfall: ambon [drizzle], tikatik [light drops of rain that lasts long], ulan. When there’s heavy rainfall, malakas ang ulan is the comparative description and napakalakas ng ulan, the superlative. Pumapatak ang ulan [rain starts to fall], bumubuhos ang ulan [pounding rain], are aural descriptions together with the onomatopoeic tikatik ang ulan.

In the southern Tagalog provinces, dag-im alone means rain is definitely coming so a warning to prepare and be vigilant becomes the order of the day. The word ‘silong’ means to save or to put in some place to keep dry and safe from getting wet or damaged by rain.

                  Magsilong kayo ng sinampay – collect your laundry from the line

                  Isilong ninyo ang kambing – put the goat in the barn

                  Sumilong ka sa kubo – run inside a hut

                  Pasilong naman … – may I share… [an umbrella, or a wide and sturdy leaf]

Storm surge accompanied by whipping winds, heavy rain and intense flooding is ‘daluyong’. Daluyong immediately gives an image of rushing waters, in a calamitous sense. But even ‘daluyong’ wasn’t enough to describe the flooding caused by typhoon Ondoy [international name KETSANA, 2009]. It had to be more specific:

Lubog ang Maynila [Manila is submerged in water].

Umawas ang mga dam, [the dams overflowed].

Walang tigil ang ulan [It rained non-stop for many days].

Lumutang ang mga nakaparadang sasakyan [Parked vehicles are floating].

Naghintay ng saklolo ang mga tao sa bubong ng kanilang bahay [People waited for rescue on the roofs of their houses]

Nagkapit-kapt ang mga tao na parang tulay para makatawid ang mga bata at matatanda [People linked themselves into human chains to let children and the elderly pass to the other side]

After every storm the Tagalog will say ‘Salamat sa Diyos, humupa na ang bagyo; tila na ang ulan’. [Thank God, the storm is gone. No more rain.]

In the Philippines, the sun always shines right after a storm. People immediately go out and about, understanding that a storm has passed -yet more are coming – but…anyway – life goes on in the islands. In many places, each storm leaves the people in shock and fear of the next season of storms, and every Filipino can only pray for wisdom on how to be more prepared and ready the next time around.

Ambon, Ulan, Bagyo, Baha - essentially the setting for this novela